Alaska Fishing News BLOG


2015 Fishing Season

Posted: December 2015

As we begin to make our way into the New Year we would like to thank all of our guests from the past year for helping us have a great 11th season as Drift Away Fishing.  As a whole we were blessed with solid fishing from June thru September, let’s break down 2015 by each month for a closer look.

June

Rainbow Trout:  Oh boy! 2015 June was by far one of the best early season trout fisheries we have seen in a long time!  A huge Pink run in the fall of 2014 and solid winter Silver run gave Kenai Trout plenty to snack on from late fall into spring.  Once the Kenai opened to Trout fishing (June 11) it was game on.  30-40 fish days, most of which were 20”-24” of pure chrome super chargers, each day brought close encounters of fall-fat fish over 25”.  The best part?....... Trout were crushing streamers on the swing!   How will this June pan out?  We don’t know, but June is one of our favorite times to target Trout!

 

 

 

King Salmon:  June started with good King fishing on the Kasilof River.  We absolutely love no bait!  The recent restrictions on the Kasilof to preserve the natural King run have helped deter angling pressure and makes for a great fishing experience.  If your looking to target early run hatchery Kings the first two weeks of June is the time!

 

              

 

Red Salmon:  We start targeting Reds on the Kasilof mid June ish.  This year started consistently inconsistent.   One day would be amazing the next was tumbleweeds.  Most of this can be attributed to the giant tide swings we had during the month of June, but once the party got started the fishing became great.

 

 

 

July

 

Rainbow Trout:  The trout party carried over from June and stayed strong until mid July.  There is usually a week lull during mid July, but the last 12 days of the month offer some of the best trophy Trout fishing all season.  Attention Trout anglers we highly encourage you to try the end of July.  Not only are you going to have great trout fishing, but you can also bring home salmon, and the weather is usually awesome.

 

           

 

King Salmon:  Due to the continuing low returns of native run King Salmon to the Kenai and Kasilof rivers Drift Away Fishing has decided to not target them in order to help preserve this amazing fish.

 

Red Salmon:  We can’t complain about the 2nd run of Reds on the Kenai or Kasilof last July.  Limits happened most days.  The Reds have been a great source of freezer filling the past few years as we no longer target Kings.  Most guests prefer fishing Reds over Kings anyways (I know we were surprised too).  The reason?  Reds offer continuous action and typically anglers leave the river with more tonnage of fish for the freezer.  Preserve Kings and still fill the freezer with great fish, everyone wins!

 

 

 

August

 

Rainbow Trout:  Early August produced some nice fish as usual.  We still believe that late July through early August is on of the best times to target trophy Trout.

 

Mid August fished strong due to the late run of Reds, we normally see this time as a lull for Trout as food sources become limited due to the end of the Red run and beginning of the King spawn.

 

The end of August was great!  We actually had a strong king spawn!  It was great to see some numbers of fish spawning and spawn beds staying active.  We were seeing Kings moving upriver and making beds well into the second week of September!

 

          

 

 

Red Salmon:  The first week of August fished very well as usual, and we kept seeing great numbers of fish and limits well into mid August.  Typically we do not see this, however, salmon show up when ever they want.

 



Silver Salmon:  1st run Silvers on the Kenai fished well but weird, we were consistently getting limits and quickly, the weird part was we could only find them in a few places.  This run also fished well through the end of August into early September, which is historically a slow point between the 1st and 2nd run of Silvers.

 

 

          

 

September

 

Rainbow Trout: For Rainbow Trout September was great, for those hunting them it was pretty good.  The Kenai saw a solid return of Reds to the river, with a good portion showing up pretty late.  It was definitely nice seeing Reds spawning down river of Rainbow Alley.  With this return of Reds coupled with low and fairly clear water made for tricky fishing conditions.  Not to mention the Snow glacier ice damn blew out causing a spike in the water level during the second week.

 

 

Early September started strong, huge wind events threw a definite curve ball into the equation but a strong King spawn kept us finding quality fish.  As we progressed into September a glut started due to all the spawning Reds.  The Trout were still there, but had plenty of eggs to feed on, the quickly changing water levels due to the ice damn kept fish and food displacement constantly changing.  Patience, perseverance, and stealth played an important role in hooking the temperamental trophy fish.

 

 

The end of September picked up a bit as the abundance of food kept most Bows hanging around, but the dropping CFS (water levels) kept the fish ultra sensitive to boat pressure.  Through it all we landed many big Kenai Bows and tickled even more.  We saw many new faces this September and were excited to see the reaction of folks as they battled their first Kenai River trophy Trout.

 

Silver Salmon:  The low water also impacted the Silvers.  We were able to find a few places that consistently produced, but once the morning bite was over it seemed like there was quite a bit of work to scratch out a few fish.  The nice part was the early morning was good!  We doubled up several times catching most fish in 18” of water or less!  2nd run Kenai Silvers run large averaging 10-12lbs with fish over 15lbs not uncommon.  Conveniently the trout bite started to turn on as the Silvers turned off.  It made for great combo days.

 

 

There you have it, 2015 in a large nutshell.  We are very excited for 2016, which is a pink year (= big rainbow trout in the fall).  There are still spaces available for peak dates throughout the summer, but they are filling up fast!  Have a great winter!

 

 





July Update

Posted: July 2015

This past July was a solid month of great weather and fishing. Red salmon, trophy Rainbow Trout, and Halibut kept rods bent and smiles on our clients faces.  If you are looking for some of the best opportunities in sport fishing consider July as a time to experience what Alaskan waters have to offer. 

Trout

Early July fished strong for Rainbow Trout on the Kenai.  The perfect conditions during June helped keep the bite great into the beginning of July.  As usual the bite from the 8thish – 15thish gets a bit scratchy, but the last two weeks of July can and will rival fall trout fishing! 

If you are looking to fill the freezer with salmon and take part in world- class trophy Trout fishing the last 2 weeks of July is for you.  We have written several blogs and articles about this topic, the end of July is a sleeper trophy trout fishery and is worth your time to check it out!

 

 

 

Red Salmon

We have two great options to keep anglers on Red salmon.  Early July we prefer to target the Upper Kasilof, this section is drift boat only and offers anglers a stunning landscape making you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere.  The run is usually in full swing during this time and limits happen frequently.

Mid to end of July we move over to the Kenai to target the larger Reds (9-12lbs)  usually by the 12thth the run is strong and limits are happening on a frequent basis, as was the case this year.

 

 

King Salmon

Due to the continued decline of the King Salmon population on the Kenai and Kasilof Rivers Drift Away Fishing has decided to not participate in targeting the late-run (2nd run) of Kings on either river.





June 2015

Posted: July 10, 2015

Rainbow Trout on the Kenai

This was one of the best June trout fisheries in the past few years!  Thank you Mother Nature, pink, and silver salmon for contributing to such an awesome event!

 

The opener on June 11 – the end of June was consistently great fishing for this time of year. Who can complain when 22”- 24” fat, fall-sized rainbows were the average.  Almost every trip was interrupted by the shot of a big one (27” x 17”) and larger. Let’s face it; those are straight up fall dimensions in June!  We love chrome footballs!

 

Why?

 

Whether an angler is successful on the water or has a tough go of it one should always ask the question of why.  Why was it good?  Why was it bad?  Why did I hook that “oh my God fish” here? 

 

So here is the breakdown of why June was what it was.  It begins with last fall.  If you follow us on Facebook or read these blogs you have definitely seen the photos of last fall, and the awesomeness of that fishery.  Last fall was perfect in terms of normal – low water levels.  The Pink carcasses and eggs from the fall weren’t blown out of the river due to high water or flooding like the past few falls.  A strong silver run throughout the winter also provided plenty of food for Trout.

 

The final kicker was a fairly stable June.  Consistent weather coupled with a steady increase in CFS (water level)  allowed food to not get washed out too fast, keeping quality fish in pockets of high concentration, eager to crush a swinging streamer. 

 

For those of you that want to take advantage of catching hard charging trout on streamers…..June is the time!

 

 

Red Salmon

Kasilof River Red Salmon produced limits most days during June.  Fish and Game reported a near record return, and fear of over escapement.  This lead to the limit being raised from 3 to 6 Reds pretty early.  With the decline of King Salmon of the past few years Red Salmon offer an exciting alternative to Kings and a great way to begin filling the freezer in June.  The Upper Kasilof is an absolutely stunning place to catch a fish.   We absolutely love this trip!

 

 

King Salmon

We target Kings on the Kasilof from late May till mid June.  It was a pretty fun time out there this year!  Each day rods folded and offered clients a chance to feel the power of an Alaskan King Salmon.  Single hook and no bait still seems to deter anglers, but don’t be fooled, bait and one hook is all that is needed to have a great day on the water!  Trust us!  We are very excited for next June and the return of these remarkable fish!

 

Tying it together

All in all June was a good one!  Three species, two rivers, and great fishing kept smiles on clients faces as well as ours!  We recommend June as a great time for folks that want a diverse Alaskan experience without the major tourist population.





Better than fall?

March 25, 2015

Early August Rainbows on the Kenai

 

It is widely known fall is the time for trophy trout on the Kenai River, and it makes sense.   Several species of salmon are spawning and dying creating a bounty of highly nutritious food for hungry trout.  Our photo page is littered with pics of folks holding big bows grinning ear to ear, dressed for winter, in the background golden leaves decorate the tress, all of which supports the thesis that fall is the time for big trout.

What if there is another time when anglers can target big fish with less pressure and typically stellar weather?  I know it sounds too good to be true, but end of July through the first weekish of August can offer trout enthusiasts some phenomenal fishing with fall quality sizes.

The Reason

The Kenai River has seen a huge decrease in the return of King salmon over the past few years.  Many guides and sport anglers have been switching to Sockeye fishing as an alternative especially when Fish and Game shut the river down to Kings.  The result is Sockeye madness from Skilak Lake to Eagle Rock.

Fish cleaning protocol suggest to fillet the fish then throw the remains into the river.  This is where a light bulb should come on in your head.  Skilak Lake to Eagle Rock is 40+ river miles of anglers lined up catching Sockeye and “chumming” the river with food for hungry trout.

By late July/early August Kenai Trout have had three weeks of easy feeding and look like they time warped out of September.  During this time high numbers of trout are being caught and trout over 10lbs are hooked daily.

guide and client holding trophy kenai trout in early August

Tactics

Dead drifting egg and flesh patterns in various sizes and patterns will be the go to.  The day, water temp, and amount of Sockeye running will dictate what to use and how aggressive the trout will be.

Locating trout will not be hard, find a line of anglers swinging for Sockeye, and fish behind them.  Trout will not stray too far from places where salmon are consistently being filleted. 

 

The window of Opportunity

Unfortunately there is only a 2-3 week window of awesome. Mid July through about August 8th th is the window with the peak being July 20 – August 5.    As with all things on the Kenai the timing and amount of salmon in the river dictate trout behavior.  Too early and there are not many carcasses floating, too late and most of the sockeye carcasses have washed out.  However, when the planets align this sleeper trout fishery can and will rival the fall.  It is well worth your time to experience trophy trout fishing during the middle of the summer!

 

Guide and client holding a plump early August trout on the Kenai RIver

 





Why quality boats and gear really matter

March 1, 2015

A long time ago a mentor of ours talked about the “Wow Factor”.  The “Wow Factor” in his mind was what he wanted his clients to think, say, and feel as they interacted with his business for the first time.  In the guide world having your guest get into your boat and say “wow” is important, equally important is the reaction you receive when handing out rod and reel set ups.  Quality gear certainly helps set the tone for the day, and can help put the odds in your favor during clutch situations.

Boats


The Kenai River has many access points, great fishing, and with that plenty of boat traffic.  Launches are a busy place in the mornings and afternoons as guides and clients meet and bid farewell.  During this high traffic time many guests are actively comparing and contrasting the different types and quality of guide watercraft, and it makes perfect sense.

Guides can’t control the weather or behavior of the fish, but they can control the environment in which they guide out of.  A clean, well cared for boat, is essential for setting the stage for a day on the water.  It’s fair to say that most folks would prefer to hop into the “nice” boat vs. the old beat up one. 

Layout is important as well.  A boat should be designed for the type of species you are targeting.  It should be easy to move around and not restrictive.  This is especially important once that “big one” is hooked and an angler needs to maneuver around the boat and avoid tangling with other anglers.

Presentation is key to catching fish.  Different hull designs allow for different levels of handling ease and efficiencies in drift management.  Once again boats that are designed to target a certain species and drift style will pay off dividends in the long run.


Willie Classic with Mercury Motor


Gear


The expression that a client gives immediately after placing a top end Sage or GLoomis rod in their hand is priceless, once again quality and commitment to your guests experience is reaffirmed with top of the line gear.

Besides name notoriety the performance quality gear gives is important.  Rod systems that are designed for the target species and presentation style put the odds for success in your favor.  The right set up allows for giving the best presentation to hook the fish you are after and stacks the odds in your favor when its time to do battle.

One item that can easily be over looked but is just as important as a quality rod system is a net.   Stepping to the plate with a net that is not designed for the target species can lead to disaster and harm the fish.  If you are catch and releasing a rubber net is a must.  Rubber nets allow for ease when working with the fish, allow the fish to rest, and does no damage to the protecting slime on the fish.  The slime protects the fish from infection,  plastic/nylon nets often remove slime from the fish leaving it prone to infection in the near future.

Having the appropriate size net is huge as well.  For the Kenai River, we go with the theory, bigger is better.


Sage fly rods laying on back of Willie Classic


Tying it together


If you are planning your first or next fishing trip consider asking the outfitter about the types of boats/gear they use and the condition of the gear.   This is definitely a sleeper point that can get forgotten about when researching and booking a trip.  

As mentioned above, quality watercraft and gear play an important role in the performance and outcome of your day, and knowing the quality of the gear should be towards the top of your question list when planning a trip with an outfitter. 


Anglers doubled up on Kenai Rainbow Trout






Selecting an Outfitter

February 15, 2015

Planning that dream Alaskan excursion can seem like an undertaking the size of the state.  There are many things to consider, location, package diversity, cost, quality, etc.   For folks looking to fish the Kenai River there are options on top of options.

A quick Google search will yield pages full of options for outfitters of all shapes and sizes.  Obviously they all claim that they are one of the best.  Here are a few things to consider when selecting the right outfitter for your Alaskan adventure.


Credentials

How long has the business been operating, and how long have the guides been guiding the river?  Fishing with guides that have been guiding the river for several years are able to quickly work through problems that mother nature can throw at you and consistently provide you with the best possible outcome for the conditions.  Finding a business that has been in service for years and has seasoned guides under their umbrella is a strong starting point.

When your talking with the booking agent, ask yourself, “does it seem like this person confidently knows what they’re talking about?”  Answers should be given quickly and with confidence.

 Jeremy and Nick with angler holding Kenai River Steelhead on a sunny September day


Gear

Looking the part, does your guide/outfitter provide top of the line gear and boats?  Providing the best gear on the market while fishing in a clean and well taken care of boat is proof of pride of ownership.  Your first impression of your guides boat should be wow, your first impression of your guides gear should be wow.  This idea doesn’t mean that there needs to be a price tag freshly attached to the equipment, but the gear should be in solid condition.


Options

What can your outfitter provide?  Many folks that concentrate their excursion on the Kenai Peninsula are seeking a multi species trip.  A few days on the river, a salt water trip, fly out, etc.   Working with an outfitter that can set you up with external trips is key.  Small businesses that work closely with each other have great relationships with one another.  This intimacy works well on your behalf.  It’s imperative that the client is given the best experience possible due to the close business relationship of the different companies, once again pride of ownership comes out.


Charter posing in front of a limit of Halibut


Reviews

Most outfitters have some area reserved for past cliental review.  Definitely read through the reviews, and look for consistencies both bad and good.  Some folks give a bad review because it was raining, while some give a great review because it was sunny.  Both examples are not going to give you the best info about the quality of the trip.  Look for reviews that give details as to why or why not the outfitter is qualified.


 

Feeling Good

We are all individuals, we all have our own personalities.  On top of the above mentioned, feeling that your personality matches or coincides with the outfitter will only add to the great experience of your trip.  A great way to feel out someone’s personality is to take note of the answers you get to your questions.  There is a ton you can gauge about the personality of your outfitter by the way they answer questions.

If you apply theses few basic principals to planning your Alaskan trip, you will find that the selection process will be less stressful and the quality of your trip that much better.  Happy hunting!


Front deck of Gallery Lodge





January 30, 2015

Filling the freezer in June

Red Salmon on the Kasilof

 Looking to get a start on filling the freezer in June?   Kasilof River Red Salmon could very well be what you are looking for.  Starting during the middle of June and continuing through July the Kasilof River is a sleeper fishery offering great opportunity at filling limits.


A drift boat is your mode of transportation as you float down the Kasilof to a gravel bar that is favorable to hooking Reds.  We use 9wt fly rods (no need to worry if you have never fly fished).  This simple technique involves swinging a fly through the water and hooking the fish in the mouth……I know this sounds weird.  Most Sockeye that are hooked are “flossed” in the mouth due to the presentation and arrangement of the hook and weights.  However,  when you thread the needle, a guaranteed battle with ensue.

 Limit of Red Salmon

 

Watch your knuckles……when the Reds take you to your backing several times it’s not hard for the handle to wack you on the knuckles. Lighting speed runs and several aerial displays per fish is the norm, usually your wore out before the fish is. Pound for pound Red Salmon are arguable the most fun salmon to catch.

 Happy anglers holding limit of Kasilof Red Salmon

Among great fishing, the Kasilof offers a backcountry feel, combine that with drifting down the river, and you have an action packed day in a relaxing setting.  Wildlife abounds on the Kasilof, eagles, moose, water foul, and an occasional bear can be viewed daily.


If you are ready to get some meat in the freezer while enjoying hard fighting fish in a beautiful setting then put strong thought into spending a day or two on the Kasilof River.





January 15, 2015

Happy New Year!

 

We hope that everyone had a safe and wonderful holiday season!  For us at Drift Away the 2015 season is here, repeat guest are making bookings as well as new faces.  Now is the time to lock in peak dates for your target species this summer.  But, before we delve into the New Year, lets take time to recap 2014. 


1st Run Kasilof King Salmon


Last year was one of the best returns of 1st run Kasilof Kings in years!  Single hook and no bait was a great deterrent to many anglers, fortunately we knew better.  Hooking several Kings a day with hardly any boats on the water was a dream come true.  We are hoping that this year mirrors last year! 

 angler realsing Alaska King Salmon on the Kasilof River


Only hatchery fish may be kept, natural fish need to be released.   Don’t let the prospect of not being able to keep a King sway you from targeting these awesome fish.  Feeling the power of a King is worth the experience whether you can keep it or not.


Late May – the third week of June is the window to target these guys.


Red Salmon (Sockeye)


The Kenai and Kasilof both receive runs of Reds.  With the decline of late run Kings the past few years, many guests are targeting Reds as another solid option. 


We have found that most guest prefer catching Reds to Kings!  Red fishing is extremely more hands on, more action, and typically a limit of Reds will out weigh a King in terms of meat retention. 

 limit of Kenai River Red Salmon laying on the shore


The 2014 Red run was record breaking on the Kasilof, and above average on the Kenai.  Limits were a common occurrence, while smiles happened daily.  As with all fishing some days are more productive than others, but any day spent of the river is a great day!


Mid June – the first week of August is the time to fill the freezer with Red Salmon.


Silver Salmon


2014 produced an average run of Silvers during the 1st run on the Kenai and Kasilof (August).  The general consensus was these fish were big!  12+ lb Silvers were not uncommon!  The huge volume of Pink Salmon that invaded the river during this time also brought challenges to enticing the finicky Silver.  Tactics and techniques needed to switch in order to keep hooks out of Pinks and primarily in Silvers.  As always a little creativity proved to be the best bait to fill limits. 


Throwing spinners and flies out produced back trolling. With all the pinks in the river back trolling became a Pinkathon, non-stop pink action, producing only few Silvers.  While spinners and fly gear produced an extremely high Silver to Pink ratio, they’re also exciting ways to target Silvers. 

 angler posing with fly fishing rod and Silver Salmon caught on the Kenai River

guide and angler holding 17lb Silver Salmon on Kasilof River


Seeing a Silver follow a fly or spinner than inhaling it next to the boat will get anyone’s heart pumping.


 Peak 1st run Silvers is approximately August 10th – August 20th ish.



Rainbow Trout


What a season!  Quality fishing from mid June – Oct, and one of the best falls in years.  Our Rainbow Trout season runs June 11 – early October due to the length of the season we will break it down by the month for better clarity.


June – We saw another solid June fishery this year, streamers, beads, and flesh all had their place.  Hard charging chrome Bows dominated the deep feeding pools, it wasn’t uncommon to see 90’ of fly line disappear on a turbo 22” fish!  Typically these fish will fight harder than their larger friends, but we never mind hooking into a big Kenai Chrome Bow to diversify the day.


July – The 2nd run of Red Salmon began early (9th ish), producing an early supply of food for hungry Trout.  The crux during July fishing was the water temp, it was warm, really warm.  51-53 degrees is a normal high temp on the Kenai in July, high 50’s even hitting 60 became the new norm for a bit.   The fish slowly adjusted to the warm water, but most large Trout were pretty lethargic most of the day creating a small big fish bite window.  We quickly honed in on this time and capitalized, fat mid – high 20” Trout kept us occupied.  As the temps warmed up the big fish bite would turn into nice fish for the rest of the day with an occasional beefy feeder as well.


August – The first week of August fished quite well, fat hungry Trout still gorging on Red Salmon was the consistent theme.  Mid-August slowed down as the Red food source dwindled and only a few Kings spawning.


The third week of August was when it all happened….. The planets aligned and a near perfect fall began.  The Pink spawn was consistently underway, water temps and levels were acceptable, and the Trout were very excited about all of it.


Encounters with 10+lb Bows became a daily occurrence.






guide holding 10lb kenai river rainbow trout

guide holding 10lb kenai river rainbow trout

guide holding 14lb kenai river rainbow trout




September thru 1st week of October - The Kenai shifted into full party mode during the first week of September and kept going into early October.  As mentioned near perfect conditions kept the fish active and gorging, 25” fish would have girths in access of 18”!   By early October countless 10lb Trout were boated and several in the 15lb range. 


We would see the bite slow on days with a dramatic change in water temp/level or a combo of both.  Fortunately there were not many of these days, and the fish adjusted quickly to any change.


The last five weeks of our season (end of August – early October) was one for the ages!  For those of you that were there, well, you saw what the Kenai can offer.  If you are thinking about Trout fishing on the Kenai, do it!  Experience a completely different style of Trout fishing with big results!





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